The past few years I have taught teachers how to implement explicit and multisensory phonics in the classroom using the Orton Gillingham methodology. I’ve traveled nationwide and have met so many educators and seen so many classrooms. Very powerful things are happening thanks to our hard-working teachers and it’s simply a joy to see. Lately, however, something really irks me and I must rant! Just a little…
WHY ARE WE SO GOSH DARN HARD ON OURSELVES WITH TEACHING READING! I know this is cliché, but hang on a minute. Give yourself a high-five before you read the next paragraph, because…GOOD JOB!
Rewind a bit and recall that many of us educators did not have explicit instruction in college on the science of teaching reading. You may remember walking in your first classroom, noticing how many students were not strong readers and feeling unsure on how to directly teach them to read. If this was the case, we had to get more training, or maybe still must get more training to be able to understand this unfortunate gray area of explicitly teaching reading and spelling. It’s not just us teachers that have felt perplexed, as many of you see daily. Our beloved students, parents, and families have felt or currently feel the same way. Confused. Discouraged.
Keep on Keepin’ On
Despite our flusters, there is a light at the end of this tunnel. Maybe we as teachers, parents, or students are tangled up in this mess and are trying to get out. Us teachers may be trying to take baby steps in the right direction and teach ALL students to read. I see this magic happening all over the country. I see teachers and students trying extremely hard. Go ahead, give yourself a thumbs up. You’re the BEST!
A couple weeks ago I was teaching in a couple of different school districts. In both districts, teachers are working hard to ensure they are reaching ALL their students in reading and spelling whether the student is struggling, at grade level or above level. I can’t even begin to explain how proud I was of these teachers and administrators.
Let’s go back to the previous paragraph where I stated that these schools are working to ensure “they are reaching ALL their students in reading and spelling.” Keyword … ALL! After years of not teaching explicit phonics, or teaching it inconsistently, or never even teaching it at all, here we are incorporating the Orton Gillingham methodology into our school days. Science and research will tell us that while using this approach, we are literally rewiring students brains. If I had it my way, we would be called reading doctors, but maybe that will come later?! When I listened to those teachers, I had to chuckle. I had to stop and say, “nice job on your mistakes, it shows you’re trying and will eventually be highly successful!” They seemed a little less frowny but were still overly hard on themselves.
Your Hard Work is Paying Off
A while back I was the director of one of our learning centers, located in southeast Michigan. During my time as the director of the center, I had the opportunity to meet some incredibly dedicated and hard-working students, parents, teachers, specialists, advocates, therapists, and doctors. At this learning center, a first grader liked to step into my office to have a chat with me every now and then. I was usually too busy to really focus and was instead distracted and running around like a wild chicken, overwhelmed with the 75 tasks to be completed at that moment. One day, she
Yes, little one, you are right. If you are out there reading this, know that your little note is hopefully inspiring teachers out there to take a step back and recognize that by trying out a new program, and making all the mistakes, they are actually becoming skillful at this craft which will CHANGE THE TRAJECTORY of countless children’s lives.
This is the end of my rant – I just want to encourage you all to take a step back this holiday season, decompress, fill up the tank and come back ready to tackle the rest of this school year. NICE WORK!
Written by Angelina Spiteri-Bender
Angelina is an Educational Consultant and Instructor with Brainspring Educator Academy.